Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of whipping up a real feast. The occasion was the birthdays and wedding anniversary of my brother and his wife, which all fall on the very same day in November. Because of our current work and child schedules, Su-Lyn and I don’t find the time to entertain as often or as dramatically as we used to. But for this dinner, I decided to go all out.
The menu consisted of seven courses, as follows: uni encased in tomato jelly; slow cooked prawns with scrambled egg and crab roe; foie gras with roasted figs and bocconcini; roasted bone marrow over porcini risotto; charsiu pork medallions with roasted brussel sprouts, spaetzle and pomegranate seeds; Japanese short rib curry; and matcha tiramisu. Several of the dishes were concepts I had been pondering for weeks. While others, like the marrow and risotto, were ideas inspired by what was available when I did my grocery shopping the day before the dinner.
In the past, when Su-Lyn and I had more time, we used to enjoy testing out new recipes, refining them a couple of times before unleashing them on guests. These days, however, we’re always running out of time. (In fact, it’s gotten so bad that a few weeks prior, when hosting some food journo friends visiting from the UK and realising that we weren’t going to have the time to prep the meal, we convinced one of our invited guests–fortunately a chef himself –to cook the whole meal for us… but that’s another story which I’ll write about in a few weeks.) So to make a long story short, we simply don’t get the chance to test recipes anymore. And since the majority of dishes for my brother’s and his wife’s birthday dinner were new things I’d come up with, I simply had to cross my fingers and hope they’d look and taste as good on the plate as they did in my mind.
In addition to my brother and sister-in-law, two other couples joined us. And everyone brought lots of wine — the highlight from a night of highlights was probably the 1969 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva that my sister-in-law’s soon-to-be brother-in-law brought with him. I think, in all, we opened 8 bottles of wine that evening, and ended the night sipping some 1998 Suntory Single Cask whiskey I had carried home from Tokyo this past September.
The meal, thankfully, was a success–obviously enhanced by good wine and conversation. At the end of the night, I asked Su-Lyn which was her favorite dish. She said she liked the uni and tomato jelly the most, which was really cool because it was the dish I was, in some ways, the most stressed out about.
I don’t know how or why I thought up the idea of trapping a tongue of uni inside a rectangle of tomato water jelly. I guess I figured that the flavors of sea urchin and tomato would work really well together. I also really liked the visual idea of serving a clear or semi-clear jelly with this bright orange tongue encased inside it. It was simply a dish I wanted to try making. And hoped that my guests would enjoy it. Fortunately, the dish came together really well and paired gorgeously with a lovely cult red Burgundy that one of our guests brought. Having made this once, it’s a dish I’ll definitely make again when entertaining.
While simple in concept, and simple in ingredients–uni and tomato, plus a few other things is all this really calls for–the dish does take a while to prepare (because of the tomato water) and is expensive (because of the uni). But if you have the time and the bucks, give this a whirl.
For the tomato water jelly
12 Japanese tomatoes
2.5g agar powder
8-10 nice large, super-fresh tongues of uni
optional addition which I used: doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
zest from 1-2 calamansi limes
Make the tomato water.
If you know how to remove the skins of tomatoes easily do so. Otherwise, don’t bother. Cut into quarters and then puree with a blender or stick blender. Pour the pureed tomato into a cheesecloth, gathering up the edges so you can tie the tomato puree inside a nice tight parcel. Quickly place the parcel inside a large pot and tie off the ends to a wooden spoon that can lie flat across the top of the pot. You want the parcel to be hanging about halfway down the inside of the pot. Clear or semi-clear liquid will drip from the cheesecloth parcel into the pot. This is your tomato water. Place the pot into your fridge overnight. The next day, hopefully all the liquid would have been extracted from the puree. Strain the liquid into a measuring jug. Salt to taste. For this recipe, we’ll use 300ml of the tomato water. Keep it chilled.
Prep your silicon mold by placing it on a metal tray that can fit in your fridge. Then sprinkle the calamansi zest inside 8-10 of the rectangles. Then place one tongue of uni, upside down, inside each rectangle. If you are using doubanjiang, spread just a tiny smear on the underside of each sea urchin tongue.
Pour 50ml of the tomato water into a small saucepan. Add the agar powder. Bring this to a boil while stirring/whisking frequently. Then lower the temperature to a simmer and simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour this back into a measuring jug with the reserved 250ml of tomato water. Use a stick blender to blend the liquids quickly and evenly.
Gently pour the tomato water solution into the rectangles, covering the uni. Pop this into the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.
When ready to serve, gently flip the mold over and carefully ease the jellies out one by one onto plates.
Photo taken by Henry Hariyono and generously shared here.
Tagliatelle al Cacao con Speck e Panna (cocoa tagliatelle with smoked ham and cream) and Lasagna alla Bolognese (classic bolognese lasagna)
A few years ago, I released The Baking Bites Cookbook. It was (and still is) a beautiful paperback cookbook that featured more than 50 recipes and tempting full-page, color photos of every baked good inside. I have gotten many requests to update the book and make it available in a digital format, and I just recently put the finishing touches on The Baking Bites Cookbook – Kindle Edition! This new edition of the book includes several revisions and is updated with a few new recipes, like one for a Mexican Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart, that were not included in the first edition.
The e-book can be found on Amazon and read on any Kindle or other tablet running a Kindle app. It is not currently available in other digital formats. So if you are an e-book reader, head over and download The Baking Bites Cookbook E-Book today for just $7.95!
If you’re like me and still have a soft spot for “old fashioned” books, you will be glad to know that beautiful paperback copies of the first edition of the cookbook are still available! These copies don’t have the new additional recipes that are in the Kindle edition, but they make fantastic gifts and I will sign each and every copy that goes out to give it that personal touch. The list price for the paperback book is $19.95, but if you order it directly from me, it’s only $16.95, including free US priority shipping. Paperback copies of the first edition can be found on my sale page.
This is an updated version of my old (ancient) post about how to make Turkey Gravy, which I posted back in the dark ages of 2007. And in internet years, let me tell you—that was a very, very long time ago! This is essentially the exact same method, only the photos are new and therefore much less grody, as many of my food photos were back in the dark ages of 2007, and hopefully, the instructions are even more clear. But feel free to hop between the two posts if it helps.
Gravy is everything. Absolutely everything. You can have a perfect turkey and luscious mashed potatoes, but if you don’t have a dark, decadent gravy to spoon over the top, what’s the point of even living?
Okay, so maybe that’s a little dramatic.
But the good news is this: Making good gravy isn’t difficult! It just takes patience, perseverance, and the sheer will to make gravy so good, even your picky and opinionated Uncle Festus will come back for seconds.
Here’s how to do it!
First of all (speaking of grody), you need to boil the neck and giblets, also known as the bizarre stuff you find in the bag inside the raw turkey. I always take them out of the turkey and rinse them, then store them in a ziploc bag in the fridge overnight (because I’m brining the turkey overnight, and I remove the interior bag first.)
So while the turkey is roasting the next day, place the neck and giblets into a medium saucepan, cover it with water by about 2 inches, and bring it to a boil. After it boils, reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook them for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is totally cooked through.
Now just set all the neck and giblet meat aside while you make the gravy!
Now, after you remove the turkey from the oven and remove the turkey from the roasting pan, carefully (don’t burn yourself!) pour all the drippings from the pan into a large heatproof pitcher. (Set the roasting pan aside, but don’t wash it!) Let the liquid sit undisturbed for a bit, long enough for the fat to separate from the drippings.
The separation will be obvious: The fat rises to the top, and it’s a thick, greasy liquid. The drippings stay at the bottom, and they’re more of a cloudy liquid filled with little bits.
After the two are totally separated, use a ladle to carefully skim off the fat and transfer it to a separate bowl. Just lower the ladle straight down and slowly allow the fat to spill over the sides and into the well. (You can also use a fancy fat separator…I just don’t have one of those.)
Now, when you’re ready to make the gravy, set the roasting pan over the stove (I usually straddle it over two burners) and turn on the heat to medium. Pour in some of the fat (how much you add depends on how much gravy you want to make.)
Whisk it all together and check the consistency: Basically, you want to make a nice paste. If it seems overly greasy, whisk in a little more flour until it looks right. If it seems too thick and it’s hard to stir, drizzle in a little more fat.
Pour in a good amount of low-sodium broth: You can use chicken, turkey, or vegetable—whatever makes your skirt fly up. After that, pour in half the reserved turkey drippings (you can always add the rest later if the gravy needs it.)
Whisk in the broth and cook it for long enough for the gravy to get nice and thick; this can take from 5 to 10 minutes (or more, depending on how much volume you’re talking about) so just be patient and keep on whiskin’!
So while I’m at it, let me give you the breakdown so we have it straight:
Fat = the grease that separates from the drippings. This is combined with flour in the roasting pan to make the roux.
Drippings = the cloudy, messy liquid that separates from the fat. This is added to the roux along with the broth to make the gravy more flavorful.
Broth = I usually use storebought, either turkey, chicken, or vegetable. This is added to the roux to make the gravy. Always use low-sodium (or, even better, no-sodium broth) to control the saltiness of the gravy.
Giblet broth = the liquid left in the saucepan after you boil the neck and giblets. This is used to thin the broth if it gets too thick.
Sorry to shout. I just can’t control myself.
The printable below, but in a nutshell:
1. Boil the neck and giblets in a saucepan of water.
2. Chop the giblets and pull the meat off the neck.
3. Reserve the giblet water.
4. Roast the turkey, then pour all the pan drippings into a pitcher or bowl.
5. Allow the drippings to separate from the fat.
6. Skim off the fat and put in a separate bowl.
7. Add fat back to the roasting pan over medium heat.
8. Whisk in flour, cook the roux until brown.
9. Add storebought broth (or homemade if you have it!)
10. Add the separated drippings (start with half, work your way up.)
11. Stir until thick, add more broth or giblet broth if needed.
12. Add giblets and neck meat.
13. Add salt and pepper (taste first!)
14. Serve hot and bubbly!
First, take the giblets and neck from the raw turkey and cover them with water by 2 inches in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it for 1 hour to both to cook the meat and to make a giblet broth for the gravy.
Remove the giblets and neck from the water (don’t worry; they’re supposed to look really grody) and set them aside. Keep the giblet broth in the saucepan for later.
When you’re ready to make the gravy, pour all the drippings from the turkey roasting pan into a bowl. Set the pan back onto the stove.
Let the drippings sit and separate naturally, then use a ladle to carefully separate the fat from the liquid drippings (the fat will be on top, while the drippings will settle at the bottom).
Turn the heat to medium and add about 1 cup of the fat back into the roasting pan. Sprinkle the flour all over the fat and immediately begin whisking it around to make a paste. Add more flour or fat as needed to create the right consistency: You want the mixture to be a stirrable paste and not overly greasy. If it looks a little greasy, whisk in a little more flour.
Once the paste/roux is the right consistency, whisk it slowly for a few minutes, allowing it to cook to a deep golden brown color. A nice brown roux is the secret to good gravy, baby!
Once the roux is ready, pour in 1 cup of the drippings (the stuff that separated from the fat earlier) and the chicken or turkey broth, whisking constantly. Then just let the gravy cook and thicken, whisking constantly for 5 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, use your fingers to remove as much of the neck meat as you can and chop up the giblets into fine pieces. Add as much of the meat to the gravy as you’d like: Add it all if you like a really chunky giblet gravy, add a little less if you like the gravy more smooth.
If the gravy seems too thick, add more broth and/or a little of the reserved giblet broth (the water used to cook the giblets.)
Finally, season the gravy with a little bit of salt and plenty of black pepper! (Be sure to taste it and make sure the seasoning is perfect.)
Serve the gravy piping hot at the table.
** Note: You should be prepared to add more broth, so have extra on hand!
Posted by Ree on November 25 2013
We had a really nice Thanksgiving celebration yesterday at my cousin’s house. There was lots of family, lots of laughing, and lots of delicious food. All the leftovers we made off with went to work with Phil this morning so there’s no cold pumpkin pie for breakfast and no turkey sandwiches for me today, something that’s a little unusual. But I had my fill of turkey and all the trimmings yesterday and I’m feeling okay about bucking tradition and just eating a light lunch today. I am, however, sitting here enjoying some memories of what Thanksgiving was like when I was younger and rather than feeling melancholy about loved ones lost, I’m feeling pretty lucky to have so many wonderful holiday celebrations to look back on.(…)
Continue reading Memories of Leftovers
Hello, Saturday. Time for another list of the stories, shows and other good stuff that made me happy this week:
1. Grilled Chicken Tacos. I’ve been grilling some boneless, skinless chicken breasts on Sundays and Wednesdays and using them for all kinds of things, including soft tacos (shown above). Warm your tortillas, add a few slices of chicken, and then pile on the lettuce, tomato, avocado slices, cheese, salsa, jalapeño, whatever you like. Keep the ingredients ready to go in your fridge, and you can make lunch or dinner in about five minutes flat.
2. The Colbert Report‘s segment on Johnny Cummings, the openly gay mayor of Vicco, Ky. Vicco is one of the smallest towns in the U.S. (pop. 334), but it’s also one of the first to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The part with the cop might be my favorite:
3. Zombies, Run! 5K Training. You know those “Couch-to-5K”-style training apps that guide you from walking to jogging and then running a 5K in about eight weeks? This one does the same, but it also puts you right in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse as Runner 5, a volunteer being trained to gather supplies, avoid zombies and protect a town. So much more fun. Plus, you can connect it your favorite iTunes playlist and work out to your own music. And it’s free! Can’t wait to graduate from it to Zombies, Run! 2.
4. “Keep Yo Business Off of Facebook.” Let’s take it to church, y’all:
5. “10 Awesome Videos on Idea Execution and the Creative Process,” featuring Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Ira Glass, John Kelly and more. (You can find “10 (More) Amazing Videos” here.)
6. The TARDIS on Google Maps. Doctor Who fans can find the famous blue time machine (disguised as a police telephone box) by clicking here. (Take a look inside by clicking the words “Police Telephone Box” on the map and selecting “more info.”)
7. Haim’s video for “The Wire.” Apparently, guys don’t take it well when they’re dumped by the Haim sisters. Watch out for Jorma Taccone (The Lonely Island). His post-breakup faces are epic:
8. Jennifer Dewalt. She’s teaching herself how to code by building one website a day for 180 days. As of today, she’s on No. 115. This woman is killing it.
9. The Baby Panda video. If you’re not into cute animals, you don’t even want to deal with this baby panda being cuddled by her mom for the first time.
10. Rainbow eyes. People who know how to apply makeup can do amazing things.
Perfect for all your baking needs. This 3 piece silicone set includes the popular spoon, small and medium spatulas.